Lily Bollinger was asked “When do you drink champagne?”, and she replied:
I only drink champagne when I’m happy, and when I’m sad.
Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone.
When I have company, I consider it obligatory.
I trifle with it if I am not hungry and drink it when I am.
Otherwise I never touch it – unless I’m thirsty.
But I’m not here to talk about when to drink it, quite frankly it should be drunk whenever and as often as possible. I want to talk a bit about what to drink it with.
Bubbly is so versatile and is the only wine that is socially acceptable to drink with breakfast, and most of the time I find that ‘eating is cheating’ with it, and I simply love it on its own.
But who am I to say, so I asked a few food and wine experts that I know to tell me what they like to eat with their bubbles. This is really good and you may find a few surprises here.
The hottest pairing for bubbly in Manhattan is with pizza
Eric Asimov makes a good case “First, we must get over thinking of pizza as just a fast food. Of course, too many pizzas are made of poor industrial ingredients, rushed in a sodden cardboard box to your door. What goes with those pizzas? A burning sensation on the roof of your mouth.
But good pizza, that’s an entirely different issue. Fine ingredients like pure flour, San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, sea salt,
fresh basil and great olive oil can result in near perfection. A good pizza margherita, made just with those ingredients, is a platonic
ideal, elegant in its simplicity. Why not with Champagne?
If you don’t believe me, try it. I would choose a good nonvintage Champagne, something sturdier than a blanc de blancs, something with some oomph to it, like, say, a Bollinger Special Cuvée, which will echo and amplify the savory, sweet and yeasty flavors of the pizza.”
Well, for me bubbly is not so much a luxury as a main food group. A lovely, slightly bottle aged Taittinger is a meal on its own. If pushed, I would have to go with the Chamonix Blanc de Blancs paired with the duck live parfait from Ryan’s kitchen. The biscuity, slightly butterscotch palate of the wine stands up well to the fairly powerful, gamey taste of the parfait. The mousse is really fine and creamy for an MCC and it seems to cut through the slight fattiness of the parfait, allowing the flavours of the food and the wine to marry extremely well. I have often enjoyed this pairing as a sundowner treat in summer and it has to be one of my favourite ways to fortify myself for a big weekend!
Take one large whole rainbow trout – 1, 5kg – gutted and scaled. Make sure the slime is removed. Trout has a lot of slime. Place trout in a suitable pot, pan, poaching gadget. Pour one whole bottle of Cap Classique over the trout. The fish should be completely submerged. Engage the container with heat – gas, electric, fire – whatever causes the liquid to begin a gentle simmer. Keep simmering for 12 minutes, uncovered. Remove from heat, allow liquid to cool for 10, 12 minutes. Gently remove fish and set aside. Bring liquid to a boil and reduce by half. Strain. Add three tbl spoons crème fraiche. Stir through and pour over fish. Serves with boiled new potatoes, green beans.
My most important tip for Champagne/MCC is never to wait for a special occasion. I remember working in a wine shop in the run-up to the Millennium and seeing loads of people coming in clutching some dusty old bottle of fizz they’ve kept for decades for a ‘special occasion’ and which would have been disgusting by the time they finally got round to opening it. The vast majority of fizz is released onto the market when it is ready to drink, so you should just do it! I’ve had fizz with takeaway pizza, with fish and chips and simply on its own on a Tuesday evening cos that’s just how I roll. So my advice would be – every day is special when it involves bubbles.
I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy multi-course meals with bubbly (each dish served with a different wine) both here and in Champagne but I’m not convinced. I’m not saying it can’t be done – I just really like bubbly on its own or at most with a carefully conceived appetiser – the best bubblies are delicate and intricate and I find food just gets in the way. If you really must match your bubbly with a meal, then I would say seafood and poultry are the way to go.
Have I ever been surprised by how well bubbly works with food? About a year ago, I was treated to a Dom Perignon lunch cooked by the house’s dedicated chef. Dom Pérignon Rosé 2000 with lukewarm Turkish Delight ice-cream was a somewhat counter-intuitive but extraordinarily good food and wine combination.
Hennie Coetzee - Batonage
Bubbly is not for celebrations any more, it’s an everyday drink and can be enjoyed with most food (from starters to dessert) – in fact, when in doubt, pair bubbly with your food. Our favourite is to take a rich, full Champagne and pair it with chocolate and strawberries. What is more decadent than that!? Or spending quality time with your partner and some fresh tuna sashimi and a great local MCC like Silverthorn or Colmant.
Marc van Halderen – winemaker at La Vierge
My favourites with bubblies include fresh oysters, mushroom tarts and risotto’s with a fond memory surrounding a bubbly risotto we made about 2 years ago. Carolyn and I had hosted our annual Champagne and MCC tasting at home for our wine tasting group and enjoyed the benefit of having about 15 leftover half bottles of bubbly in the kitchen. On the following evening we made a large pot of bacon, pea, mushroom and bubbly risotto with probably about 4 or 5 L of the crème de la crème bubbly as the reduction liquid! Instead of using water and stock we used entirely bubbles and stock. It was heavenly and rich and probably served with a Chardonnay or Pinot as accompaniment.
Other than that my fondest memories of Clifton and Camps Bay revolve around the many evenings spent out on Bruce’s Rubber Duck Speedboat enjoying numerous sunset evenings with at least 2 bottles of MCC per person! In season we would head out often (as much as 3 to 4 times per month) with a good mix of family and friends and all with the same outcome very tipsy and smiling. Often very tipsy in fact. Sometimes blurred!
Takuan von Arnim from Haute Cabriere
My fondest memory was the wonderful experience I enjoyed with Walter Ulz of Linger Longer in Johannesburg - the perfect pairing of our Pierre Jourdan Blanc de Blancs with his fantastic scallops! This 100% Chardonnay MCC also pairs wonderfully with Sword fish, Marlin and more decadent deserts like crème brulée and pecan pie. It expresses our passion for wine growing and total respect for the cultivar…
Corlea Fourie – Winemaker at Bosman Family Vineyards
My favourite meal of the day, if time permitting is breakfast/Brunch. Nothing I enjoy more than having a great breakfast in the wine lands on a fresh, clear morning. Bubbles then are always my favourite drink of choice. It goes with anything from gourmet eggs benedict, to picnic style fair. When entertaining I usually (because time is always an issue) get the deli in town to do simple, fresh breadsticks –some with salt, or some with parmesan to use as a welcoming drink. If we have time, having carpaccio with a MCC with more Pinot Noir in the blend works well, otherwise with Blanc de Blanc: potato rosti`s topped with cream cheese, capers, salmon and green peppercorns are a favourite.
If we have MCC with a meal we do Pissaladière with onion, anchovies olives and thyme.
I could go on – but MCC and Champagne have been part and parcel to many of the best memories of life we have had, purely because we use it to celebrate! It is a great drink to have purely on its own, and does well with a lot of dishes. One could even go as far as to say that one should be more open to (in restaurant and home cooking environment) for looking to pair MCC with a meal (for instance with your desert, or with specific main`s) instead of always falling back on still wine options.
Franck Dangereaux – The Foodbarn
when drinking it on food though, I find it quite versatile, going from almond and olive oil gazpacho with fresh oysters, raw scallops with ginger and coriander salsa, to lamb’s brain fritters with chardonnay and caper butter and steamed crayfish with grapefruit segments and butter…… the possibilities are endless depending on varietals and style…. it is just awesome…
Summer is almost here and its the perfect time to be cracking open more bottles of bubbles.
If you are looking for for a really good bubbly, here are the winners of the Amorim Méthode Cap Classique Challenge which is the leading competition honouring producers of South Africa’s premier sparkling wine category.
- Overall winner ~ JC le Roux Scintilla 2003
- Best Rosé ~ JC le Roux Pinot Noir Rosé 2008
- Best Blended Cap Classique ~ JC le Roux Scintilla 2003
- Best Blanc de Blancs ~ Simonsig Cuvée Royale Blanc de Blancs 2007.
- The Museum Class ~ Krone Borealis Vintage Cuvée Brut 2001
(*The Museum Class was introduced for the first time at this year’s competition and is open to wines from vintages prior to 2007)
T0 read a bit more about the awards event, click over to Cathy Marston’s article on Food24.
Champagne is the only wine that leaves a woman beautiful after drinking it.
Madame De Pompadour